Category: Switch Adapted Toys

Description applied to toys that have been modified to allow activation using an external big-button type switch as typically used by individuals with physical disabilities or medical conditions such as cerebral palsy.

iControl for iPad switching

Image of iControl used for switching of low voltage devices e.g. toys from an iPad

iControl for iPad Switching is the second of the two new devices launched by Pretorian Technologies. Read this blog post for a review of the iClick mains controller.

In comparison, iControl is designed for switching low voltage battery powered devices such as toys. Whereas, iClick is designed to control mains powered (110-240 volts) electrical appliances such as an electric kettle.

Both iControl and iClick bring switching capability in-the-real-world to an iPad user; that’s the interesting and new feature.

Unboxing the iControl

Open the box and you find:

  1. The iControl unit
  2. USB charging cable
  3. 2 cables with a standard 3.5mm jack plug on each end
  4. Set-up and Operating instructions

The top face of the iControl unit has a very simple layout. You see the on/off button, the battery charge indicator and two outputs where the connecting cables are plugged. On the front edge is the serial number that’s used during the paring with the iClick app on the iPad.

Image of the iClick app used with iControl available in the Apple App Store
iClick app used with iControl

You are now ready to charge the iClick. Take the USB charging cable and insert the small plug into the ‘charging port’ on the right edge. Plug the other end into a powered USB port on, say your PC. The green LED will flash indicating the battery is being charge and will go out when fully charged.

iControl needs the free iClick app to be installed on an iPad: visit the Apple App Store and search for iClick by Pretorian Technologies. Install it on your iPad as you would any other app. (Note: iClick only works on the iPad generation 3 onwards. It is not available for the iPhone.)

Set-up is exactly the same as I’ve described previously in the posting about the iClick mains controller. In summary: pair the iControl with the iClick app within the apps settings, if you want to customise the buttons, set the type of switch control then press the iPad on-screen buttons. All very simple.

Switch modes

Understanding how toys operate is helpful:

Timed: once activated many toys will operate for a short period of time without any further action by the user. Typically the toy will sing a song, recite a nursery rhyme or dance. It may last for 10 seconds or up to a minute.

  • Toys on Excitim’s website in the ‘Talking, singing and dancing’ section work in timed mode.
  • Select the ‘Direct’ switch setting in the iClick app for these types of toys.

Direct: once activated these toys work whilst the switch is continuously pressed (this is also called momentary switch mode) When pressure on the switch is released the toy stops working.

But, the iClick app can also tell the toy to remain on even though pressure on the switch may have been released. It can do this using the ‘Latched’ and ‘timed’ settings.

  • These toys on Excitim’s website work in Direct mode: bubble machine and domino train as well as others.
  • Select the ‘Direct’ switch setting in the iClick app for these types of toys.
  • Alternatively, select ‘Latched’ or ‘Timed’ settings in the app for continuous play without the need to keep pressing the switch.

If that sounds complicated feel free to contact us with your questions and I’ll be happy to help out.

iClick Quick set-up

Image of customised buttons in the iClick app to help visual recognition and associate with action, toy and switch
Customised iClick buttons

Follow these instructions for a quick set-up of the iControl and iClick app

  1. Make sure the unit is fully charged. Re-charge it if necessary.
  2. Turn on the iControl by pressing the green power switch on the face of the unit.
  3. Plug one or both jack plug leads into the sockets on the front of the iClick.
  4. Connect the plug into the socket on the adapted toys (assuming it’s a toy you want to control)
  5. Open the iClick app and make sure it is paired with the iPad.
  6. Customise the on-screen buttons for added interest but also for purposes of visual recognition and association with ‘action / toy / switch’.
  7. Select ‘Direct’ switch mode to tell the toys to operate (appropriately ‘Latched’ or ‘Timed’ depending on the toy.
  8. Tap the on-screen buttons to make the toys work.

Watch the video

Watch the video of iControl switching a bubble machine and a fire engine – scroll to the bottom of the page.

Sleep Mode

iControl has two in-built ‘sleep’ functions designed to help save battery power.

  1. If it is not used for over one hour the unit goes into low power mode and ‘sleeps’. Pressing the ‘Power’ button turns it back on again and it will automatically re-connect with the iPad within a few seconds.
  2. When iClick is not likely to be used for some time it is advisable to put the device to ‘sleep’ manually. Press and hold the ‘Power’ button for a few seconds until the LED goes out. Pressing the ‘Power’ button again re-powers the iControl.

Considered observations

1. Simple switch control of toys through the iPad is now possible and it works very well.

2. The penetration of the iPad and apps into education and the home is so widespread that iControl will be seen as a logical addition. I predict it will be used to help animate story-telling and create sensory stimulation.

Final thoughts

At Excitim we specialise is producing switch adapted toys which means the iControl device fits in completely with what we do. We have added it to our catalogue and it can be found on the website in the iPad Accessories and Switches section. Take a look.

We also intend to explore whether the technology used in iControl can be integrated directly into toys. We’ll be talking with Dave at Pretorian Technologies about this next time we get together.

Flappy the Elephant

Image of Flappy the Elephant switch adapted toy available on Excitim's website
Flappy the Elephant switch adapted toy

Flappy the Elephant is the newest animated plush toy we have adapted for children who use switches with their toys. Flappy has two play functions and both are switch accessible with any standard (3.5mm) switch. Both functions can also be activated by pressing the switch pads in his feet.

Connect and press the first switch to make Flappy engage with your child and encourage them to play a game of peek-a-boo. He plays this game by using his ears to repeatedly cover and uncover his eyes. Effectively hiding behind his big ears.

Connect and press the second switch and Flappy sings his song about his flappy ears. It’s a lovely tune; try encouraging you child to learn the words and sing along with Flappy.

Here’s a short video we made to show what Flappy the Elephant does and how he will encourage play. (Please note: the video is a shortened version of the peek-a-boo game and his song)

In order to make it easier to find similar toys on the website we group most of the animated toys in the ‘Talking, Singing & Dancing’ section on the website as well as in the ‘age appropriate category of 3 to 6 years’ and if they are newly featured also in the ‘newest switch adapted, sensory and tech toys’ section.

Do let us know what you think of Flappy the Elephant. Would you like to see more videos? Do they help you to judge whether these sorts of toys are appropriate for your child? Happy viewing. Mike

Switch adapted train set

This is the fourth switch adapted train set we have added to the catalogue – we just like trains.

Switch adapted train set based on Marklin My World Eurostar high speed locomotive
Switch adapted train – Eurostar locomotive

This time it’s based around the ‘Marklin My World’ Eurostar, German ICE and French TGV high speed locomotives. The track set is a large figure of eight layout that sits on the top of a play mat.

Each set has a red handset controller that makes the train go forward or in reverse at three speed settings. It controls other functions such as sounds and lights as well as the emergency stop!

Switch accessible controller for Marklin My World train sets
Switch accessible controller

The handset is good but we though it likely the buttons on the controller may be too small for some children and with this in mind we set about building a switch accessible control box for switch users.

It’s easy to use: connect a single switch – any 3.5mm switch will be fine – to the control box and away you go. Connecting the switch turns on the battery power to the control box and the first switch press makes the locomotive go forwards. It continues until the switch is pressed again: that makes it stop.

The track sits comfortably on the play mat and the town and country scenes add interest and the possibility for imaginative play with improvised bridges, tunnels, houses, farm animals, trees etc.

Railroad play mat

Having two controllers in the box means a switch user and a sibling, friend or even a dad will be able to play together with this switch adapted train set. That must be good. Watch this short video to get a better idea of how it works and visit the webpage for more information.

These are the links to the German ICE and French TGV high speed locomotives on the website.

What do you think: is this the best ever switch adapted train set you have found on the web? Get in touch via our contact us page if you have any questions.